5 Unbeatable Places to Celebrate Holi in India
Love is the answer to hatred. Love is the answer to worries. Love is the answer to the gravest distresses of humanity. Love is holy. Manifested in a gazillion ways, what better can it be than to celebrate it with colours and youthful flirtations in the charm of spring. An ‘epidemic of love’ flowing through our hearts and drenching us in brotherhood, goodness and integrity, the festival of Holi is a celebration of life and has many variations across the country. The word ‘mystic’ could well be used as a synonym for India. Experience these 5 unbeatable places to celebrate Holi in India, this year. Holi is much more than throwing coloured water and smearing paint on each other. Happy Holi!
Shantiniketan, West Bengal:
Bengal has a unique and elegant way of celebrating Holi. Poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore established the tradition of celebrating Holi as Basant Utsav or Spring Festival in Shantiniketan. Young boys and girls dressed in spring colours put up a huge cultural program for the visitors. From folk dances to chanting of Tagore’s songs (an important part of Bengal’s heritage) in the tranquil of Shantiniketan, the Basanta Utsav is a much graceful and dignified affair.
A three day Basanta Utsav takes place in the Purulia district (5-6 hours by train from Kolkata) is organised by the villagers themselves. This eccentric celebration is marked by Bengal’s age-old folklore and art. This includes the remarkable Chau dance, Darbari Jhumur, Natua dance, and songs of West Bengal’s wandering Baul musicians.
Yes, Manipur! It’s hard to tell whether it’s the breath-taking blue hills or the culture of the land, Manipur, the ‘jewelled land’ of India casts a spell on you. The warm people of Manipur have a special place in their hearts for the playful ‘mythological dude’, Lord Krishna and worship him with utter devotion ever since Vaishnavism set its feet around the fifteenth century. Holi is one of the first Hindu festivals the Manipuris started celebrating, locally known as Yaobang.
Instead of one day, celebrations go on for five days and nights involving traditional dances, music ceremonies and local sporting events. Dressed in traditional white clothes and yellow turban, devotees at the Shree Govindajee Temple perform Pung cholom dance which is a treat to watch. Do not refuse a little girl if she asks for Nakatheng (the money collected by children for merrymaking). Apart from the usual play of colours, the main highlight of this festival is Thabal Chongba (dancing in the moonlight). This traditional dance is performed on all days in every locality, a great chance for the young boys and girls to meet!
It’s hard to match the zealous fervour of Holi celebrations of Varanasi, the mecca of Hindu traditions and rituals. From the narrow alleyways to the ghats on the banks of Ganga, people flock to this entire historical town and paint it in hues of pink, blue and yellow. In Varanasi, Holi is intense! Like an overcrowded train meandering its way through the town. Initially, you might feel better off watching all the fun from the rooftop but it’s like the nervous temptation you feel before getting onto a roller-coaster ride. You know you are gonna have fun but can’t find the courage to hop in. The Bhaang might do the trick for you! Although caution is recommended, it’s hard not to lose yourself in the carefree vibe.
Also Read: Rajasthani Holi celebration
Braj, the historical region which covers areas of Mathura, Vrindavan and adjoining areas attracts people from all corners of India, rather, all parts of the world. Holi celebrations start well in advance of the main day. Vrindavan is where it all began, the legend of Radha-Krishna’s amour. This is where the dark-skinned Krishna felt inferior to a fair Radha and decided to colour Radha’s face in whichever colour he wanted to! Thousands of people gather to relive such tales of Krishna playing Holi with Radha and the gopis (cowgirls). Out here, Holi is as authentic as it can get. Unlike earlier times Vrindavan recently broke the stereotyped shackles by including widows in the celebrations. Vrindavan is one of the best places to celebrate Holi in India.
The effervescence of Holi celebrations in Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna is unmatched. This town is a bedlam of colours, joy and devotion during the Holi month. Yes, an entire month of Holi! Packed with excited travellers, the experience of witnessing age-old traditions such as the bizarre ‘Lathmar Holi’ of Barsana will paint your memories for a lifetime.
From the time of ‘Maharaja Fateh Singh,’ the ritual of ‘Holika Dahan is practised in the city palace. The members of the palace host a magnificent procession from the place to Manek chowk. The royal entourage with elegantly ornamented horses is a captivating experience to watch. Nowadays the ritual of Holika Dehan also takes place at the famous Jagdish Chowk which is followed by numerous cultural events. The ceremony is celebrated to honour the triumph of divine power over demonic strength. A local dance, Gair is performed to draw tourists into the celebrations. The next day is termed as ‘Dhulandi’ when people forget all the boundations of age, religion, caste or creed and play Holi armed with gulaal and buckets full of water. Locals and tourists alike participate with great enthusiasm.